Oman ruler meets British royals in rare appearance

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The sultan's ill health and repeated hospital spells in Germany have focused attention on the fact that he has no designated successor

Omani leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said addresses the opening session of the Council of Oman in the capital Muscat on 15 November, 2015 (AFP)
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Sunday 6 November 2016 11:27 UTC
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Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said held talks with Britain's Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, in his first announced meeting with foreign dignitaries nearly seven months after a medical check-up in Germany.

Qaboos, who has ruled the Gulf sultanate since 1970, has reduced his public activities since having treatment in 2014 for what diplomats have said is colon cancer.

On 12 April, the 75-year-old sultan returned from Germany after the medical check-up on his progress following lengthy treatment there in 2014 and 2015.

He has rarely appeared in public, and this is the first time since April that he is known to have received foreign dignitaries.

Late on Saturday, the official Oman News Agency reported that he had received the Prince of Wales and the Dutchess of Cornwall at a palace in Muscat.

The royals discussed "cooperation between their countries in various sectors to achieve the joint interests of the Omani and British people" as well as ways to strengthen relations between them.

Prince Charles arrived with his wife and other British officials on Friday for a three-day visit in Oman.

The couple are expected in Oman's neighbour, the United Arab Emirates, on Sunday.

The sultan's ill health and repeated hospital spells in Germany have focused attention on the fact that he has no designated successor.

Qaboos is unmarried and has no children or brothers, meaning his cousins are his closest relatives.

Last month, Oman's Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi told a Saudi newspaper that Qaboos was in "good health" as rumours circulated that the monarch had been hospitalised.

Diplomats say the sultan's long absences from the public eye have stirred worries about stability in the country, which faces Iran across the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

But bin Alawi told Okaz that the sultan's succession was "arranged in a clear way" and that "people are more worried outside the country than inside".

According to the constitution, the sultan must write a letter designating a successor from the ruling dynasty, to be opened in the event that his family cannot agree on his replacement within three days of his death.

Oman has historically close relations with Britain and is the only Arab state in the Gulf that also has warm ties with Iran, enabling it to become a key mediator between the Tehran and the West.